The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued three alerts in October regarding cyber attacks on North American utility computer systems, declaring that malware in the form of a Trojan Horse has been lying dormant in the interfaces within utilities’ systems that control essential operations, possibly since 2011. Cyber security experts, noting that the malware going by the name of “BlackEnergy” is targeted toward systems with little in the way of intelligence value, are classifying the incursion as a potentially offensive measure designed to disrupt the delivery of electricity from the grid as well as the operations of water treatment plants in the U.S. and Canada.
While only a few details of the attacks have been disclosed to the public, this much is known so far:
The fact that the BlackEnergy malware was inserted into the networks of utilities but was not activated has led to speculation by cyber security experts that the breaches have been purposed more as a warning to potentially adversarial countries about Russian capabilities rather than an overt attack. For the utilities that were hacked, as part of an industry that is recognized as being one of the most vulnerable to cyber attacks, another warning is clear; in a cyber warfare event these networks will be targeted with dual objectives of mass disruption and destruction.